AVON LAKE — A member of Avon Lake Council wants to explore whether residents should be permitted to scare deer away from smaller lots by allowing them to fire at the animals with paintball guns.
Council member Dave Kos, 4th Ward and chairman of the Safety Committee, thinks owners of smaller lots need an alternative since archery equipment — permitted under a new ordinance passed by the Council — would never be approved for use.
The city is well on the way to issuing municipal deer control permits to eligible residents. Under the new ordinance, which took effect last week, landowners who can show deer damage to property may be eligible for a deer damage control permit issued through the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
If issued, landowners then must apply for a municipal deer control permit through the Police Department, which will determine whether deer can be shot safely on those properties.
Kos said residents ineligible for municipal control permits for any number of reasons could use paintball guns to shoot at the hooves of deer as a scare tactic. The topic initially was discussed during an Environmental Committee meeting with the Ohio Division of Natural Resources earlier in the year, Kos said.
“It’s been discussed with ODNR that shooting a deer near the hoof with a paintball gun will get them to scatter,” Kos said during a phone interview.
Kos said multiple residents have said deer will stick around in yards even when people stand in their backyards and yell or bang on pots and pans.
“How do you get them out without putting yourself into direct conflict with them?” Kos asked. “This was one of the alternatives offered, to allow residents to shoot at a deer’s feet to get them off the property.”
The city’s weapons and explosives chapter of the codified ordinances includes a section that prohibits anyone from using slingshots, bows and arrows and air rifles to “purposely or recklessly” shoot projectiles.
Paintball guns are not mentioned, Kos said, and he would like to see the ordinance, enacted in 1958, modernized to have paintball guns coincide with the new deer legislation. The law should be written, he said, so that paintball guns would be allowed only in tandem with the deer legislation.
Geoff Westerfield, Ohio Division of Wildlife assistant wildlife management supervisor, said shooting deer with paintballs is a gray area under the law that is allowable as long as shooters aren’t hurting them.
Nonetheless, he said it’s something he wouldn’t condone.
“I really don’t want to deal with phone calls of a polka-dot deer running around town because it’s gotten hit with 17 different colors of paint balls,” he said.
Westerfield said paintballs would be largely ineffective in scaring away deer, who are accustomed to running through forests and getting whacked with tree branches.
“In the end it’s not a very effective harassment tool,” he said. “There’s a lot of other things out there that can address a problem rather than using a paintball.”
According to a Division of Wildlife Deer Damage Control brochure, methods to remove deer from property include light and sound devices designed to scare deer away, physical barriers to prevent entry and chemical repellants. The Ohio Division of Wildlife also offers a list of plants most damaged by deer, and plants rarely or never damaged, to help homeowners determine suitable landscaping.
Kos said Safety Committee members didn’t feel it was the right time to bring the paintball issue before City Council, but he hopes to bring the subject up again in the fall.